I heard today that the Promise Ring broke up. For many years, they were my favorite band – when indie rock was dying around 1996 or so they stepped in to save it. There are few records I know as well as their Horse Latitudes singles comp, Nothing Feels Good, and Very Emergency. Their most recent record – Wood/Water – was a disappointment, a blatant attempt to discard the “emo” label and be a more “mature” band (whatever that means). The songs weren’t bad per se – live they were just as great as any of their other songs – but they lacked the energy and feeling of the older stuff.

Songs can be living or they can be dead. When a band breaks up – they die. They’re an artifact, a memento of something that’s gone forever. I can’t help feeling sad listening to dead songs – The Promise Ring, Jawbox, Braid, the Pixies, all the bands I’ve loved over the years. Especially Nirvana.

Besides hearing about the Promise Ring’s breakup today, I also saw the “new” Nirvana video for the soon-to-be released original track, “You Know You’re Right.” This is the king of dead songs – written just weeks before Kurt Kobain’s suicide, the victim of a vicious custody battle between Courtney Love and the surviving members of Nirvana. Watching the video – a collage of clips of Kobain performing taken from a variety of sources – you can’t help but feel the tragedy of his suicide. It’s such a great song – it hints at what the next Nirvana album might have been. And the images of him alive and playing music – they really effect you.

The day Kurt Kobain died I was saddened that that was it – he couldn’t’ come back to life. There would be nothing else. And all those great songs were dead. Releasing a video for “You Know You’re Right” only helps to accentuate the reality. I’ve been waiting for eight years for a new Nirvana song – and now that it’s here – I can’t help feeling like maybe it should never have come out. Perhaps the hope of something is more important than really getting it – because this is it. There will be nothing else.